UN Global Compact Forward Faster

Anna Triponel

October 2, 2023
Our key takeaway: “Don’t fall behind the times. Move forward, faster. History has taught us that the leaders who succeed are the ones who meet the needs of the future by moving forward. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we need forward thinkers, doers, builders, changers, movers, leaders. Because right now, only 15% of the SDGs are on track for 2030. We must be more ambitious.” These words from the UN Global Compact say it all. The UNGC, as part of its new Forward Faster initiative, urges companies to focus on five areas: gender equality, living wage, climate action, water resilience, and SDG finance and investment. Watch the film (press play here) which was launched during the 78th United Nations General Assembly and you’ll get the idea. In short, get with the program, and prioritise these five areas within your business to be a forward thinker and doer. The world cannot wait. 

The United Nations Global Compact, the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative, announced on September 18th the Forward Faster initiative to accelerate private sector action to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are the 5 areas of action that have the power to accelerate progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and are where the private sector can collectively make the biggest, fastest impact by 2030:

  • Gender Equality: In short: “Increase profitability and performance by ensuring inclusive workplaces and parity in your workforce.” This includes two targets: (1) Equal representation, participation and leadership across all levels of management by 2030, and (2) Equal pay for work of equal value by 2030. Why? Because “When women are empowered and included, economies grow, communities thrive and businesses flourish.” Because “At our current rate, it will take over 160 years to achieve gender equality in terms of women’s economic empowerment and participation.” And because “On average across countries, long-run GDP per capita would be almost 20 per cent higher if gender employment gaps were closed “; “When boardrooms are gender balanced, enterprises are two per cent more likely to have improved business outcomes” and “Gender equality in the workplace can help unlock more than $12 trillion in new market value linked to the SDGs.” The Gender Equality Action Guide that guides companies on how to meet these targets is available here.
  • Living Wage: In short: “Reduce inequalities and build more resilient supply chains by ensuring a living wage across your workforce.” This includes two targets: (1) 100 per cent of employees across the organization earn a living wage by 2030, and (2) Establish a joint action plan(s) with contractors, supply chain partners and other key stakeholders to work towards achieving living wages and/or living incomes with measurable and time-bound milestones. Why? Because “Ensuring a living wage across your workforce reduces inequalities and builds more resilient supply chains.” Because “Today, over a billion working people worldwide –1/3 of all workers – are estimated to earn less than they need to afford a decent standard of living.” And because paying living wages helps companies improve productivity and gain important advantages, including reducing staff turnover and absenteeism, increasing retention and motivation, attracting new talent and increasing staff productivity; as well as improving supply chain relationships, performance, resilience and transparency. The Living Wage Action Guide is available here.
  • Climate Action: In short: “Protect your business from long term volatility by working towards net zero and a just transition.” This includes two targets: (1) Set corporate science-based net-zero emissions reductions targets in line with a 1.5°C pathway, with the goal of halving global emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050 at the latest, and (2) Contribute to a just transition by taking concrete actions that address social impacts of climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in partnership with actors such as workers, unions, communities and suppliers. Why? Because “Taking climate action will help future-proof your business.” And “In order to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, we need to cut emissions in half by 2030.” And also, there are a number of other benefits: “Improve efficiency and cut operating costs by reducing energy usage and emissions”; “Strengthen your reputation with customers, suppliers, investors and regulators whilst reducing your exposure to climate risks”; “Stay one step ahead of policy changes and climate regulations”; and “Ensure you leave no one behind in the transition to an environmentally sustainable economy.” The Climate Action Action Guide is available here.
  • Water Resilience: In short: “Increase efficiency and reduce supply chain disruption while helping vulnerable communities in water-challenged regions.” This has one target: Build water resilience across global operations and supply chains and join hands to achieve collective positive water impact in at least 100 vulnerable prioritized water basins by 2030. In addition, companies that select this target are expected to endorse the CEO Water Mandate. Why? Because “Building water resilience at your organization can improve business performance and accelerate growth.” And “Right now, more than 2 billion people lack safe drinking water. It’s estimated there will be a 40 per cent gap between available water and demand for water by 2030.” There are a number of other reasons to pay attention to water resilience, and the Water Resilience Action Guide is available here.
  • Finance & Investment: In short: “Shifting corporate capital towards the SDGs is critical to closing existing financing gaps.” This has two targets: (1) Align corporate investment – to the fullest extent possible – with SDG policies and strategies, and set targets, track and report on the amount and proportion of such SDG investments, and (2) establish a corporate financing strategy that is linked to SDG investments and performance, and report on the amount and proportion of such SDG finance. Why? Because “Aligning financial strategies with the SDGs unlocks new revenue possibilities.” And “The world will need to spend between $3 trillion and $5 trillion annually to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.” There are a number of other reasons to pay attention to finance and investment, and the SDG Finance & Investment Action Guide is available here.

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